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The Philistines Return the Ark to Israel

The ark of the Lord had been in Philistine territory for seven months. The Philistines called for the priests and for those who practice evil magic. They wanted their advice. They said to them, “What should we do with the ark of the Lord? Tell us how we should send it back to its place.”

They answered, “If you return the ark of the god of Israel, don’t send it back to him without a gift. Be sure you send a guilt offering to their god along with it. Then you will be healed. You will find out why his power has continued to be against you.”

The Philistines asked, “What guilt offering should we send to him?”

Their advisers replied, “There are five Philistine rulers. So send five gold rats. Also send five gold models of the growths in your bodies. Do it because the same plague has struck you and your rulers alike. Make models of the rats and the growths that are destroying the country. Give honor to Israel’s god. Then perhaps his power will no longer be against you, your gods and your land. Why are you stubborn, as Pharaoh and the people of Egypt were? Israel’s god was very hard on them. Only then did they send the Israelites out. Only then did they let them go on their way.

“Now then, get a new cart ready. Get two cows that have just had calves. Be sure the cows have never pulled a cart before. Tie the cart to them. But take their calves away and put them in a pen. Then put the ark of the Lord on the cart. Put the gold models in a chest beside the ark. Send them back to the Lord as a guilt offering. Send the cart on its way. But keep an eye on the cart. See if it goes up toward Beth Shemesh to its own territory. If it does, then it’s the Lord who has brought this horrible trouble on us. But if it doesn’t, then we’ll know it wasn’t his hand that struck us. We’ll know it happened to us by chance.”

10 So that’s what they did. They took the two cows and tied the cart to them. They put the calves in a pen. 11 They placed the ark of the Lord on the cart. They put the chest there along with it. The chest held the gold models of the rats and of the growths. 12 Then the cows went straight up toward Beth Shemesh. They stayed on the road. They were mooing all the way. They didn’t turn to the right or the left. The Philistine rulers followed them all the way to the border of Beth Shemesh.

13 The people of Beth Shemesh were working in the valley. They were gathering their wheat crop. They looked up and saw the ark. When they saw it, they were filled with joy. 14 The cart came to the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh. It stopped there beside a large rock. The people chopped up the wood the cart was made out of. They sacrificed the cows as a burnt offering to the Lord. 15 Some Levites had taken the ark of the Lord off the cart. They had also taken off the chest that held the gold models. They placed them on the large rock. On that day the people of Beth Shemesh offered burnt offerings to the Lord. They also made sacrifices to him. 16 The five Philistine rulers saw everything that happened. On that same day they returned to Ekron.

17 The Philistines sent gold models of growths as a guilt offering to the Lord. There was one each for Ashdod, Gaza, Ashkelon, Gath and Ekron. 18 They also sent five gold models of rats. There was one for each of the Philistine towns that belonged to the five rulers. Each of those towns had high walls around it. The towns also had country villages around them. The Levites set the ark of the Lord on the large rock. To this day the rock is a witness to what happened there. It’s in the field of Joshua of Beth Shemesh.

19 But some of the people of Beth Shemesh looked into the ark of the Lord. So he struck them down. He put 70 of them to death. The rest of the people were filled with sorrow. That’s because the Lord had killed so many of them. 20 The people of Beth Shemesh said, “The Lord is a holy God. Who can stand in front of him? Where can the ark go up to from here?”

21 Then messengers were sent to the people of Kiriath Jearim. The messengers said, “The Philistines have returned the ark of the Lord. Come down and take it up to your town.” So the men of Kiriath Jearim came and got the ark of the Lord. They brought it up to Abinadab’s house on the hill. They set his son Eleazar apart to guard the ark. The ark remained at Kiriath Jearim for a long time. It was there for a full 20 years.

Samuel Brings the Philistines Under Israel’s Control

Then all the Israelites turned back to the Lord. So Samuel spoke to all the Israelites. He said, “Do you really want to return to the Lord with all your hearts? If you do, get rid of your false gods. Get rid of your statues of female gods that are named Ashtoreth. Commit yourselves to the Lord. Serve him only. Then he will save you from the power of the Philistines.” So the Israelites put away their statues of gods that were named Baal. They put away their statues of female gods that were named Ashtoreth. They served the Lord only.

Then Samuel said, “Gather all the Israelites together at Mizpah. I will pray to the Lord for you.” When the people had come together at Mizpah, they went to the well and got water. They poured it out in front of the Lord. On that day they didn’t eat any food. They admitted they had sinned. They said, “We’ve sinned against the Lord.” Samuel was serving as the leader of Israel at Mizpah.

The Philistines heard that Israel had gathered together at Mizpah. So the Philistine rulers came up to attack them. When the Israelites heard about it, they were afraid. They said to Samuel, “Don’t stop crying out to the Lord our God to help us. Keep praying that he’ll save us from the power of the Philistines.” Then Samuel got a very young lamb. He sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. He cried out to the Lord to help Israel. And the Lord answered his prayer.

10 The Philistines came near to attack Israel. At that time Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering. But that day the Lord thundered loudly against the Philistines. He threw them into such a panic that the Israelites were able to chase them away. 11 The men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah. They chased the Philistines all the way to a point below Beth Kar. They killed them all along the way.

12 Then Samuel got a big stone. He set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer. He said, “The Lord has helped us every step of the way.”

13 So the Philistines were brought under Israel’s control. The Philistines didn’t attack their territory again. The Lord used his power against the Philistines as long as Samuel lived. 14 The Philistines had captured many towns between Ekron and Gath. But they had to give all of them back. Israel took back the territories near those towns from the control of the Philistines. During that time Israel and the Amorites were friendly toward each other.

15 Samuel continued to lead Israel all the days of his life. 16 From year to year he traveled from Bethel to Gilgal to Mizpah. He served Israel as judge in all those places. 17 But he always went back to Ramah. That’s where his home was. He served Israel as judge there too. And he built an altar there to honor the Lord.

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